Help of technology can make CBSE exams foolproof, says HRD secretary Anil Swarup

In an interview to Mehak Kasbekar, Anil Swarup speaks about why it was decided to not hold re-exam for Class 10 Maths paper and what measures are being put into place to ensure paper leaks do not happen in the future.

Help of technology can make CBSE exams foolproof, says HRD secretary Anil Swarup
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Reporting by Mehak Kasbekar

New Delhi: CBSE has been in the eye of a raging storm since reports of Class 10 Maths and Class 12 Economics papers being leaked came to the fore. Home secretary Anil Swarup too has had to fight fire for close to two months before it was announced that while Class 12 students will have to appear again for Economics, Class 10 students won't need to. In an exclusive interview, Swaroop says decisions taken may not be perfect but were still taken with best interest of students in mind. He also says increased use of technology may ensure such incidents do not happen again.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q: Why different decisions for 10th and 12th exams were taken? Why was same consideration not taken for both, at least when the leaks were there in both papers?

A: See, the implication of class 10th and 12th examinations are different. Class 10th is more of an internal exam, where you self-evaluate and see. You don't have to go for admission elsewhere like in case of Class 12. In class 12, every mark matters. The difference of one mark leads to non-admission to a particular college that you want to go. 

So given the implication of class 10 and 12 exams, we decided that we should hold the class 12th exam again and class 10th should not be held. 

For not holding the class 10th examinations there are other reasons also. The primary reason was the impact of class 10th examination. We evaluated it through some randomly selected copies, which were corrected, and we found that the results of this year through this randomly selected copies was worse than last year. So, if this would have impacted it than would have improved a bit both in terms of children failing and children getting 90% more. There were lesser number of 90 percent and more failures this year. So being that case, we came to a conclusion that by and large there has been no impact.

I would like to add that this may not be a perfect decision. But keeping in mind the inconvenience that would have cost to 14 lakh children would have to re-appear. We took the decision that it has no implication, there has been no impact and the inconvenience to children based on three factors, we decided not to hold the exams. 

Q: Were there any discussions on any other solutions, which was put on the board and was discarded? Maybe giving the passing marks to everybody?

A: Yes, we had a discussion on all those. But once the random sample study came to us, we decided that it is not really required. By and large, the marks will reflect what the students have done. So in that context, we said holding an examination will be disastrous. 

Q: Many said that the CBSE chairperson should be removed as a fallout of the CBSE leaks. Of course, you explained in the public domain earlier in the decisions she took. But going ahead, how we are going to make sure that such leaks do not happen in the system at all? 

A: This system had been working for three-four years but this is a wake-up call in the context that even this can be misused at some level.  So, we are now committing ourselves to use technology to see how it could be used to make the system even more foolproof. 

For this purpose, a committee under the chairmanship of ex-secretary HRD has been constituted. It will submit its report by May 31, 2018.  But we are also looking at various techniques that can be used to make the system foolproof. 

Q: And this will be applicable from when? 

A: Next exams. All next year exams will be held under the new system. It will be our endeavour to ensure that the students do not go through this agony from next year. 

Q: Is there anything in the current system that is going to be put in the new system?

A: No. The advantage of the electronic system is that we are able to track down much easier than in the physical system. In the electronic system, whoever messes with this process, you can get to know who has got into the system at what time and from through which IP address. We should be in a better position to look at the problem if it arises. Our hope is that there would not be any problem as the world will know that they will be caught in case they do it. But you can never give full assurance. It will be our endeavour to make the system foolproof. 

Q: Could it (the entire paper leak controversy) have been handled swiftly? Could the media have been involved in a better way? Could they have been reached out from the government so that all the issues that we saw panning across the country would have probably have been solved?

A: You know, it was a very unusual situation and without any appropriate information it would have been a wrong step to come to the media. When you talk to the media, you should be aware of the thing that you are talking about. And to get to know that in the system, it took some time obviously on the hindside, someone can say that someone should have spoken ahead of it. But my view is that speaking prematurely without knowing the full facts would have been even worse. So, as soon as we took the decision in this regard to reconduct the examination or not to reconducting other exams, I personally came to the media and spoke to it. 

Q: What would you like to say to students?

A: My advice to students is that focus on what you are doing. You don't become good or better because someone else has done good or bad. You are evaluating yourself. Just because someone else has done well, doesn't make you bad. You are what you are, so focus on yourself. There is a whole life ahead and there will be many such situations where you will be compared with others but don't go by comparison. Do good to yourself, improve yourself and you will succeed in the life. 

Q: The last question is on the values and ethics that we are seeing and there is a big question mark on the educational system. Currently, we saw the Pradyuman murder case, there have been other violent cases and it is just increasing across India. What is the government looking at to contain it? 

A: It is a very, very serious issue and we are conscious of the fact that we have to somehow bring in value education in the current system. We had a couple of days of workshop, intensive interaction with the experts. We are working towards it and hopefully, we will be able to get these aspects in the new curriculum of the NCERT, where value education becomes a part of formal education.